How many people know your salary? How about your blood pressure or your weight?
Of course, your boss knows your pay number. But should your employer also be privy to metrics on your personal health?
It’s a tough question to answer, since many employers pay a portion of their workers’ health insurance coverage, and are increasingly offering wellness programs to help keep down employee medical costs. Many programs measure workers’ key health factors, and then tailor plans to help workers improve threatening metrics, like high cholesterol or blood pressure.
But there are federal protections, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which dictate that it must be voluntary on the part of an employee to answer questions about his or her health, or have any type of health screening.
Consequently, participation in wellness programs that take any health information from workers must be voluntary. To spur employees to participate, many companies offer incentives, like a discount to workers for part of their health insurance costs.
But if incentives are too great, like covering the total cost of health insurance for participants, that could mean employees are essentially forced to join the wellness program, explains Steve Wojcik, vice president of the National Business Group on Health.
Recently, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a proposed rule limiting incentives to 30 percent of the cost of employee-only coverage – the 30 percent threshold would also include any rewards wellness participants receive for improving health metrics, like weight.
The NGBH commended the proposed rule, and employers want clarity, notes Wojcik. The NGBH is advocating for some changes for the final rule, like limiting incentives to 30 percent of the worker cost of family coverage.
Job applicants often hear about wellness programs during the interview process, and they are usually viewed as a perk, adds Wojcik.